The Americans are moving – towards the southeast, it seems. According to a report by Visit Florida, the state’s official tourism planning source, an estimated 31.4 million domestic visitors (on personal trips) traveled to Florida during the second quarter of 2022., up from the same periods in 2021 (+1.7%) and 2019 (+8.3%). The report further noted that quarterly demand for hotels, specifically in Florida, exceeded pre-COVID (2019) levels for the second consecutive quarter in the second quarter of 2022 with overall growth parameters: the number of hotel rooms sold increased + 7.5%; Average Daily Rate (ADR) increase + 14.4%; The occupancy rate increased +2.7%. All of these indications are that Florida is showing off its tourism power as travelers increasingly flock to the Sunshine State.
One unmistakable draw in Florida is the Orlando tri-county, which boasts year-round mild weather, an abundance of theme parks and other activities and more than 127,000 rooms to choose from — from affordable hotels to 4- and 5-star resorts.
Speaking of luxury accommodations, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Orlando, FL to experience a resort that truly exceeded my high expectations: The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando, Great Lakes.
This beautiful, award-winning hotel is located within Grande Lakes Orlando, a 500-acre oasis of natural beauty, which also includes the JW Marriott Orlando. With its expansive landscape setting, legendary hospitality, breadth of in-hotel experiences, and world-class experiences, the Grand Lakes Hotel Orlando is Central Florida’s premier multi-hotel resort hidden in the heart of Orlando.
The five hundred and eighty-room Ritz-Carlton Orlando recently emerged from a multimillion-dollar makeover, unveiling a series of improvements to its seven restaurants, public areas, club lounge, pool, private poolside cabanas and guest rooms and suites—all featuring generous layouts, balconies, double tables, and views. . Families who need more space can choose from the spacious three- and four-bedroom Ritz-Carlton residences.
Every interior detail has been meticulously updated with high-quality fixtures, textiles and luxury furnishings, drawing on the natural beauty of the lush lands of the Grand Lakes and eleven surrounding lakes.
Guests who upgrade to Club Level accommodations receive exclusive privileges and access to the Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge, where they can enjoy five daily food and beverage presentations. Club level amenities also provide access to Ritz Kids programs, curated events and activities, exclusive areas, balconies for watching fireworks, and a dedicated concierge service.
All guests have access to an impressive array of bars, lounges and restaurants, including Primo – a Michelin-recommended restaurant at sister hotel JW Marriott within walking distance, as well as Knife’s steak and seafood restaurant at the hotel. Ritz-Carlton. A spoonful from award-winning chef John Tessar, who is proud to have a Michelin star as of June 2022.
The hotel is also home to the 40,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa, a rejuvenating stop for resort-style wellness programs and treatments, as well as a newly renovated pool with luxury cabanas.
Hotel guests can also enjoy the Grand Lakes Orlando Golf Course that serves as the site for the PGA Tour Challenge event, and the 18,000-square-foot Whisper Creek Farm located on the property.
Sports and leisure activities are also plentiful, including quiet hunting spots, falconry adventures, fast-paced mountain biking, guided eco-boat tours of Shingle Creek, Sunrise Safari, tennis, and more.
I learned more about the property courtesy of John McGavin, general manager of the Grande Lakes Orlando area. Here are some of the highlights from that conversation.
MK: While there is a lot to love about the Grand Lakes, Orlando area, how would you sum up the area in general?
J.M.: With its expansive natural setting, legendary hospitality, and breadth of world-class hotel experiences, Grand Lakes Orlando is the region’s most unexpected luxury resort destination. An oasis inspired by the golden age of Florida hotels, the destination virtually features accommodations and terms from two luxury hotel brands: The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott. The vast grounds they share, including 11 lakes, provide an incredible setting for an unprecedented array of guest rooms and suites, amenities, and recreational activities. Grand Lakes is a haven for those who clearly want Different Orlando Experience.
Kundera: I know there are recent renovations. What can you share about that?
J.M.: Yes, we are always committed to enhancing the guest experience. A multi-million dollar investment has been made in comprehensive property renovations that include The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott and their shared amenities. The renovations mean reinventing, expanding and new building in terms of areas that include accommodation, lobby, lounge, restaurants, bars and pools featuring a full aquatic experience and luxury cabanas.
MK: As a luxury property, how would you describe your ideal clientele?
J.M.: The Modern Wealthy Client – Guests on a journey for deeper meaning and satisfaction. They choose brands that share their values and reinforce their beliefs. Our hospitality approach resonates with luxury travelers who don’t want the typical Orlando experience. Those looking to visit a place that is a destination of its own. That is, once they are drawn to Florida, their primary goal of traveling here is not necessarily the attractions surrounding the area, although this may be part of their plans during their stay, but instead seek the complete satisfaction of the rest period directly related to their stay. We appeal to guests who expect and see value in a certain level of hospitality that can only be found in certain establishments and the brands that have earned this reputation.
In short, we offer a GRANDE service which is: Generous, Relational, Ambitious, Nostalgic, Varied, Excellent.
MK: With a fair amount of accomplishment across the Orlando tri-county, what are the few things that really set Ritz-Carton Grande Lakes apart from other luxury hotels and resorts in the area?
J.M.: For example, in a private setting of several lush, natural hotels on 500 acres, the curated resort facilities and customized activities are second to none. We have many quality resort staples that include an 18-hole championship golf course that hosts a PNC Championship. We also have a sprawling 40,000 square foot spa where we are the exclusive provider of Biologique products and services in the US in fact, in 2002 USA Today Honoring The Spa at Grande Lakes, coined by him the “Lady of Grande Spas,” by calling it “America’s Best Spa Hotel.”
Our natural environment is another unique feature we have. With 11 lakes, mountain biking, fishing, falconry, eco-tours through the headwaters of the Everglades, a newly expanded water park with fun features for all ages and more, being outdoors in Florida has never been easier or more fun.
In a few fun facts, we are the only resort in Florida that offers falconry experiences and we also have an on-site Olympic champion ice sculptor and hunting manager.
For the foodie, our cooking program also sets us apart from the package. This notably includes Michelin-winning food led by chefs affiliated with James Beard: Chef John Tessar of Knife & Spoon at the Ritz-Carlton who received a one-star rating from MICHELIN 2022, and Chef Melissa Kelly of Primo at JW Marriott, a recommended restaurant In the Michelin Guide Florida 2022.
In all, there are over a dozen dining options, both indoors and outdoors, across the property. Many of these outlets draw inspiration and ingredients from the property’s working farm and bountiful garden that allow us to offer true farm-to-table fare.
Our location is private and spacious compared to nearby resorts. Of course, we are conveniently located to reach the local attractions, but the guest can still feel worlds away. The Grande Lakes Orlando hotel is truly located in the heart of Orlando.
MK: COVID-19 has certainly presented its fair share of challenges that remain. How will the drug continue to overcome the difficulties presented by the epidemic?
J.M.: In response to the current conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we have implemented a variety of new protocols and evolving practices, in line with our high standards of hygiene and luxury service.
This includes engaging internal and external experts in food and water safety, hygiene, infection prevention, and hotel operations. In fact, our Marriott Cleaning Board has redefined our cleaning and safety standards. We actively monitor and develop our solutions to respond to current events and conditions, and otherwise ensure a continued focus on the health and safety of our guests and partners.
Guests also appreciate the ability to check-in without contact and easily access their loyalty information. The Marriott Bonvoy app has many features to enhance the guest experience including local area information, dining, mobile chat to communicate with guest services, and the ability to submit service requests as well.
From my own experience at The Ritz-Carton Grande Lakes, I can attest that they create a service-driven hospitality experience so exceptional and personal that not only do those memories stay with the guest but also enhance guest loyalty – the kind that inspire repeat visits year after year. This type also helps guests to trust that the venue, experiences and service provided make the property well suited for private life celebrations and business events.
In my estimation, for Orlando vacations, there is no more great experience than The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grand Lakes.
Merilee Kern, MBA is an internationally respected brand analyst and strategist who reports on cultural shifts and trends as well as prominent industry change-makers, movers, shakers and innovators in all categories, both B2C and B2B. This includes field experts, thought leaders, brands, products, services, destinations, and events. Merilee is founder, executive editor, and producer of “The Luxe List” as well as host of “The Luxe List”Savvy living“ A lifestyle TV show broadcast in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, and other major markets on CBS, FOX, and other major networks; In addition to “Savvy Ventures“A business TV show broadcast locally on FOX Business TV and Bloomberg TV. As a prolific lifestyle, travel, dining, and entertainment industry, the voice of authority and taste maker, Merilee keeps her finger on the pulse of the market for new, innovative essentials and perfect experiences at all price points. From affordable prices to the extreme, her business reaches several million worldwide via broadcast television (her own shows and many other shows on which she appears) as well as countless print and online publications. www.TheLuxeList.com And the www.SavvyLiving.tv / Instagram www.Instagram.com/MerileeKern / Twitter www.twitter.com/MerileeKern / Facebook www.Facebook.com/MerileeKernOfficial / LinkedIN www.LinkedIn.com/in/MerileeKern.
*** Some or all of the accommodations, experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to you if this was an editorial review, but all opinions expressed are those of Merilee Kern is completely unaffected in any way.